WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group is formally intervening in a North Carolina utility proceeding to oppose a Duke Energy plan that would put rooftop solar power financially out of reach for many working- and middle-class residents.
EWG joins a growing coalition of 47 organizations, including NC WARN, Appalachian Voices, 350 Charlotte, 350 Triangle, the Alliance to Protect Our People and Places We Live, or APPPL, and Black Workers for Justice, and many other local, state and national groups opposed to Duke’s scheme to undermine rooftop solar.
“The days of Duke Energy dictating the price and source of North Carolina’s electricity are dwindling fast in the face of available clean, renewable and much more affordable options, like rooftop solar – and Duke’s executives know it,” said EWG President and co-founder Ken Cook.
“That’s why monopoly utilities like Duke are fighting to crush rooftop solar in North Carolina, echoing fights in California and other states,” Cook said.
Duke wants the North Carolina Utilities Commission, or NCUC, to impose a new monthly “net metering” bill on the power company’s rooftop solar customers. Those ratepayers in Duke’s two monopoly utilities in the state, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, would have minimum bills of $22 and $28, respectively.
At the same time, Duke is seeking to lower the price, by roughly two-thirds from the current rate, that both monopoly utilities are required to pay ratepayers for surplus power generated by rooftop solar. Duke is also seeking to tie solar usage to a “time of use” schedule, with the highest rate of solar credits occurring between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., when very little, if any, solar power is generated, according to NC WARN.
EWG will submit testimony to the NCUC in the coming days and will work with others in the coalition to raise awareness about the plot by Duke to make it harder for families and small business owners to realize the economic and environmental benefits of installing rooftop solar.
“For years, profit-fueled power companies have gotten away with punishing their captive customers through regular rate hikes and widespread air pollution, while ignoring clean, cheap and renewable sources of electricity,” said Cook.
“But the explosion of rooftop solar in North Carolina and other states has for the first time created competition for Duke and other monopolies, and they’re doing everything possible to stop it,” he said.
“The people of North Carolina should be free to make their own decisions when it comes to how they power their homes and businesses. Incentives in the state’s rooftop solar program and the steadily declining cost of solar have made it a more affordable option for working- and middle-class families. The Duke scheme would significantly undercut the incentive those captive ratepayers have to install solar on their homes,” added Cook.
Similar efforts by monopoly investor-owned utilities are unfolding in other states, including California and Florida. In California, EWG officially intervened with the state’s public utilities commission last June by submitting testimony. EWG also joined a coalition of hundreds of local, state and national groups urging regulators and Gov. Gavin Newsom to reject a plot by Pacific Gas & Electric and two other two big power companies to quash the state’s wildly successful rooftop solar initiative.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.